Himachal Pradesh, the picturesque state nestled in the Himalayas, is known for its natural beauty and tranquility. However, in recent years, the state has been grappling with a rising drug problem that is threatening to tarnish its reputation. It has become a major cause for concern, particularly among the youth.
The state which is also known for widespread illegal cultivation of cannabis and its derivatives -- hashish, charas and the very popular malana cream -- is now being flooded by 'chitta' and pharmaceutical drugs, quite like its neighbouring state, Punjab.
The Himachal Pradesh police data analysis of 'Register 29' maintained in all police stations to keep a track of drug peddlers reveals that about 60 per cent of those active in the state have taken to 'chitta'. It has added a new dimension to the drug menace in the state.
According to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity, Himachal Pradesh currently houses 3,000 jail inmates, with 40.8 percent of them incarcerated for drug-related offences.
Of these inmates, 68 percent are undertrials while the remaining 32 percent have been convicted. The official revealed that the state's correctional department has requested the government to expand prison capacity to 5,000 in response to the escalating drug problem. Furthermore, there are over 8,000 ongoing NDPS cases in different courts, with approximately 7,000 awaiting trial.
Once upon a time, the state's drug headache was limited to illegal cannabis plantations in the Kullu Valley. According to sources, the demand is still high and the illegal business of the drug cartel is still booming.
Himachal Pradesh's ancient Aryan village of Malana is known all over the world as a haven for those looking for a high in the hills. An oily and aromatic strain of hashish called Malana Cream is considered to be the purest form of hashish and is derived by the locals from the cannabis grown illegally in the surrounding Parvati Valley.
The official revealed that the state's correctional department has requested the government to expand prison capacity to 5,000 in response to the escalating drug problem.
The international popularity of the drug still brings thousands of tourists to the village. The economy of the area has boomed following the explosion in the demand for Malana Cream.
Malana Cream is not limited to Himachal Pradesh because it is trafficked to other states across the country.
According to reports, Himachal Pradesh has also become a transit hub for drug trafficking due to its proximity to the Golden Crescent. The drug mafias are using innovative methods to smuggle drugs into the state, such as hiding drugs in vehicles or using drones to transport them. The situation has become so grave that the state government has declared a war against drugs, and several measures have been taken to curb this illegal activity.
"One of the reasons for the rise in drug addiction in Himachal Pradesh is the lack of awareness among the people. Many youngsters are unaware of the dangers of drug abuse and the consequences it can have on their health and future. The government has initiated several awareness programs to educate people about the dangers of drugs and the need to stay away from them," said Gurdeep Singh, who works on spreading awareness about drugs in the state and is a resident of Kullu.
"Another challenge in tackling the drug menace in Himachal Pradesh is the lack of resources and infrastructure. The state has a difficult terrain and limited resources, making it challenging for law enforcement agencies to track down and apprehend drug traffickers," he said.
"To combat the drug problem, the state government has set up special task forces and drug rehabilitation centres. The government is also working in collaboration with various organizations and NGOs to create awareness about drug abuse and provide rehabilitation support to drug addicts," Singh added.
A few pharmaceutical firms in the recent past were caught illegally producing and selling opioids, including 'chitta' (adulterated heroin) in Himachal's Baddi near Solan, India's pharmaceutical hub.
The police launches special drives each year to destroy cannabis cultivated illegally over hundreds of acres. But what's most worrisome is the increasing number of people, particularly youth, getting hooked to 'chitta'.
An official said addicts from affluent families were turning peddlers to manage their daily 'chitta' doses and chains were being formed by roping in new vulnerable targets. (PB/NewsGram)